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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 4. A Delayed Letter
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The Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 4. A Delayed Letter Post by :louis1899 Category :Long Stories Author :Victor Appleton Date :May 2012 Read :827

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The Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 4. A Delayed Letter


But Mr. Alcando, to Americanize his name, did not faint. After reeling uncertainly for a moment, he obtained command of his muscles, straightened up, and stood rigid.

"I--I beg your pardons," he said, faintly, as though he had committed some blunder. "I--I fear I am not altogether myself."

"Shouldn't wonder but what you were a bit played out," put in Hank. "What we've just gone through with was enough to knock anyone out, to say nothing of the crack you got on the head. Maybe we'd better get a doctor?" and his voice framed a question, as he looked at Joe and Blake.

"No, no!" hastily exclaimed the Spaniard, for he was of that nationality, though born in South America, as the boys learned later.

"I do not require the services of a physician," went on Mr. Alcando, speaking rapidly. "I am perfectly all right now--or, I shall be in a few moments. If I had a drink of water--"

His voice trailed off feebly, and he looked about rather helplessly.

"There used to be a spring hereabouts," said Hank, "but I haven't been this way in some time, and--"

"I know where it is!" interrupted Blake. He and Joe, with a training that had made it necessary for them to "size up," and know intimately their surroundings, for use in taking moving pictures, had sensed the location of a bubbling spring of pure water along the road on their first visit to it. "It's right over here; I'll get some," Blake went on.

"If you will be so kind," spoke the Spaniard, and he extended a collapsible drinking cup.

Blake lost little time in filling it, and soon after drinking Mr. Alcando appeared much better.

"I am sorry to give all this trouble," the Spaniard went on, "but I have seemed to meet with considerable number of shocks to-day. First there was the runaway, which I certainly did not expect, and then came the sudden stop--a stop most fortunate for us, I take it," and he glanced, not without a shudder, in the direction of the gulch where the dead horse lay.

"And then you pulled us back from the brink--the brink of death," he went on, and his voice had in it a tone of awe, as well as thankfulness. "I can not thank you now--I shall not try," he went on. "But some time, I hope to prove--

"Oh, what am I saying!" he broke in upon himself. "I never dreamed of this. It is incomprehensible. That I should meet you so, you whom I--"

Once more his hands went to his head with a tragic gesture, and yet it did not seem that he was in physical pain. The cut on his head had stopped bleeding.

"It is too bad! Too bad! And yet fate would have it so!" he murmured after a pause. "But that it should turn in such a queer circle. Well, it is fate--I must accept!"

Joe and Blake looked at each other, Blake with slightly raised eyebrows, which might mean an implied question as to the man's sanity. Then the moving picture boys looked at Hank, who had driven them about on several excursions before they bought the motor cycle.

Hank, who stood a little behind the Spaniard, shrugged his shoulders, and tapped his head significantly.

"But I must again beg your pardon," said Mr. Alcando quickly. "I most certainly am not myself this day. But it is the surprise of meeting you whom I came to seek. Now, if you will pardon me," and he looked at the letter, addressed to Blake and Joe jointly--which epistle had been handed to him after it had been picked up from the ground.

"And were you really looking for us?" asked Joe, much puzzled.

"I was--for both of you young gentlemen. My friend the driver here can testify to that."

"That's right," said Hank. "This gentleman came in on the New York express, and went to our livery stable. He said he wanted to come out to Baker's farm and meet you boys.

"I happened to be the only one around at the time," Hank went on, "and as I knew the road, and knew you boys, I offered to bring him out. But I wish I'd had some other horse. I sure didn't count on Rex running away.

"And when I found I couldn't stop him, and knew we were headed for the broken bridge--well, I wanted to jump out, but I didn't dare. And I guess you felt the same way," he said to Mr. Alcando.

"Somewhat, I must confess," spoke the Spaniard, who, as I have said, used very good English, though with an odd accent, which I shall not attempt to reproduce.

"And then came the smash," went on Hank, "and I didn't expect, any more than he did, that you fellows would come to our rescue. But you did, and now, Mr. Alcando, you can deliver your letter."

"And these really are the young gentlemen whom I seek?" asked the Spaniard. "Pardon me, I do not in the least doubt your word," he added with a formal bow, "but it seems so strange."

"We are the moving picture boys," answered Blake with a smile, wondering what the letter could contain, and, wondering more than ever, why a missive from the Film Theatrical Company should be brought by this unusual stranger.

"Then this is for you," went on Mr. Alcando. "And to think that they saved my life!" he murmured.

"Shall I read it, Joe?" asked Blake, for the Spaniard extended the letter to him.

"Sure. Go ahead. I'll listen."

Blake took the folded sheet from the envelope, and his first glance was at the signature.

"It's from Mr. Hadley!" he exclaimed.

"What's up?" asked Joe, quickly.

Blake was reading in a mumbling tone, hardly distinguishable.

"Dear boys. This will introduce--um--um--um--who is desirous of learning the business of taking moving pictures. He comes to me well recommended--um--um" (more mumbles). "I wish you would do all you can for him--um--and when you go to Panama--"

That was as far as Blake read. Then he cried out:

"I say, Joe, look here! I can't make head nor tail of this!"

"What is it?" asked his chum, looking over; his shoulder at the letter the Spaniard had so strangely brought to them.

"Why, Mr. Hadley speaks of us going to Panama. That's the first we've had an inkling to that effect. What in the world does he mean?"

"I hope I have not brought you bad news in a prospective trip to where the great canal will unite the two oceans," spoke the Spaniard in his formal manner.

"Well, I don't know as you'd call it _bad news," said Blake, slowly. "We've gotten sort of used to being sent to the ends of the earth on short notice, but what gets me--excuse me for putting it that way--what surprises me is that this is the first Mr. Hadley has mentioned Panama to us."

"Is that so?" asked Mr. Alcando. "Why, I understood that you knew all about his plans."

"No one knows _all about Hadley's plans," said Joe in a low voice. "He makes plans as he goes along and changes them in his sleep. But this one about Panama is sure a new one to us."

"That's right," chimed in Blake.

"We were speaking of the big ditch shortly before the runaway came past," went on Blake, "but that was only a coincidence, of course. We had no idea of going there, and I can't yet understand what Mr. Hadley refers to when he says we may take you there with us, to show you some of the inside workings of making moving pictures."

"Did you read the letter all the way through?" Joe asked.

"No, but--"

"Perhaps I can explain," interrupted the Spaniard. "If you will kindly allow me. I came to New York with an express purpose in view. That purpose has now suffered--but no matter. I must not speak of that!" and there seemed to be a return of his queer, tragic manner.

"I am connected with the Equatorial Railroad Company," he resumed, after a momentary pause, during which he seemed to regain control of himself. "Our company has recently decided to have a series of moving pictures made, showing life in our section of the South American jungle, and also what we have done in the matter of railroad transportation, to redeem the jungle, and make it more fit for habitation.

"As one of the means of interesting the public, and, I may say, in interesting capitalists, moving pictures were suggested. The idea was my own, and was adopted, and I was appointed to arrange the matter. But in order that the right kind of moving pictures might be obtained, so that they would help the work of our railroad, I decided I must know something of the details--how the pictures are made, how the cameras are constructed, how the pictures are projected--in short all I could learn about the business I desired to learn.

"My company sent me to New York, and there, on inquiry, I learned of the Film Theatrical Company. I had letters of introduction, and I soon met Mr. Hadley. He seems to be in charge of this branch of the work--I mean outdoor pictures."

"Yes, that's his line," said Joe. "Mr. Ringold attends to the dramatic end of it. We have done work for both branches."

"So I was told," went on Mr. Alcando. "I asked to be assigned a teacher, and offered to pay well for it. And Mr. Hadley at once suggested that you two boys would be the very ones who could best give me what I desired.

"He told me that you had just returned from the dangers of the Mississippi flood section, and were up here resting. But I made so bold upon myself to come here to entreat you to let me accompany you to Panama."

Mr. Alcando came to a stop after his rather lengthy and excited explanation.

"But Great Scott!" exclaimed Blake. "We don't know anything about going to _Panama_. We haven't the least idea of going there, and the first we've heard of it is the mention in this letter you bring from Mr. Hadley."

"It sure is queer," said Joe. "I wonder if any of our mail--"

He was interrupted by the sound of rapid footsteps, and a freckle-faced and red-haired boy, with a ragged straw hat, and no shoes came running up.

"Say--say!" panted the urchin. "I'm glad I found you. Here's a letter for you. Pa--pa--he's been carryin' it around in his pocket, and when he changed his coat just now it dropped out. He sent me down with it, lickity-split," and the boy held out an envelope bearing a special delivery stamp. Blake took the missive mechanically.

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